by Senior Airman Deana Heitzman
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/18/2015 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- "We
call your attention to this small table, which occupies the place of
dignity and honor," reads Tech. Sgt. Maurice Carbajal, 31st
Communications Squadron knowledge management center NCO in charge, while
members of the base honor guard sharply pop to attention.
When this line is read from the historic script, the Prisoners of
War/Missing in Action table ceremony begins, kicking off Aviano Air
Base's POW/MIA Remembrance Week.
"They are unable to be with their loved ones and families today, so we
join together to pay a humble tribute to them," Carbajal continued with
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are 83,114
service members who are still unaccounted for since World War II. Across
many military installations, attendees honor these service members by
displaying a "missing man table" in dining facilities and during
"This table symbolizes the fact that members of our Armed Forces are
missing from our ranks. We call them POWs and MIAs," Carbajal continued.
During the ceremony, honor guard members presented symbolic items to
those who are missing, while the narrator explained the meaning.
"The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood they have shed to
ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America," Carbajal
With five different service hats placed on a round table draped in
white, they are adorned with a single red rose, a bread plate with a
salted lemon, an inverted glass and an empty chair.
"The slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate. The
salt, when sprinkled onto the plate, reminds us of the countless fallen
tears of families as they wait," Carabajal continued to read. "The glass
is inverted--they cannot toast with us this day. The chair is
empty--they are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of
hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home."
The ceremony ended with an excerpt for all the missing comrades to return to their ranks and their families.
"Seeing this table gave me the opportunity to honor not only those who
are still missing, but the families who are still waiting for their
loved ones to come home," said Carbajal. "I always tear up thinking
about how my children would feel if they would constantly be waiting for
me to come home."
Annually, the Air Force Sergeants Associations hosts various events
leading up to National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in
September. This year, Team Aviano came together with a memorial run,
retreat and the table ceremony to remember fellow service members.